Indian American astronaut Raja Chari all set for first space flight

NASA astronaut candidate Raja Chari. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship Endurance to launch to the International Space Station on Halloween

Indian American Astronaut Raja Chari is all set to lead NASA’s next mission to the International Space Station on Sunday on his very first space flight.

The third operational crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, called Crew-3, is slated to lift off before dawn on Oct. 31 from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:21 a.m. EDT.

If all goes as planned, after a 22-hour journey, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station at 12:10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 1.

Strapped inside the gumdrop-shaped SpaceX capsule will be NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, along with German astronaut Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Read: Indian American astronaut Sirisha Bandla joins Kalpana Chawla Project (October 6, 2021)

As commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-3 mission, Chari, 44, is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, according to a NASA press release. He also will serve as an Expedition 66 flight engineer aboard the station.

This will be the first spaceflight for Chari, who was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 2017. It’s also the first time a rookie commercial crew astronaut has been named mission commander.

A colonel in the US Air Force, Chari joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot. He has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time in his career.

Chari was the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California when he was selected as an astronaut. After two years of astronaut training, he went on to become the Director of the Joint Test Team for NASA’s commercial crew program.

Chari was also one of the 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s Artemis Team and is now eligible for assignment to a future lunar mission. He was born in Milwaukee, but considers Cedar Falls, Iowa, his hometown.

The four astronauts are scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, spending several months conducting science and maintenance before they return to Earth in spring 2022, according to NASA.

The Crew-3 mission will fly a new Crew Dragon spacecraft and will be the first mission to fly a previously used nosecone.

Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A on a Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its four passengers to approximately 17,500 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 first stage that will be used to launch this mission flew previously on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission to the station in June 2021.

Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will monitor a series of automatic maneuvers that will guide the Crew-3 astronauts to their new home in orbit at the forward end of the station’s Harmony module.

The spacecraft is designed to dock autonomously with the ability for astronauts aboard the spacecraft to take control and pilot manually, if necessary, NASA said.

The Crew-3 astronauts will spend approximately six months aboard the International Space Station conducting new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth, NASA said.

During their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, astronauts of Crew-3 will see cargo spacecraft including the SpaceX cargo Dragon in December and the Northrop Grumman Cygnus in early 2022.

They will also welcome two different private crews to the station, including Japanese tourists aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft at the end of 2021, and the Axiom Mission 1 crew, the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, scheduled to launch no earlier than Feb. 21, 2022.

The Crew-3 astronauts are scheduled to conduct a series of spacewalks to outfit the station’s power system in preparation for new solar arrays that will increase the station’s total available power supply.

Read: Indian-American Astronaut, Raja Chari, to Command NASA-SpaceX’s Crew-3 Mission (October 8, 2021)

At the conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the four astronauts aboard, depart the space station and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

After splashdown just off Florida’s coast, a SpaceX recovery vessel will pick up the crew and bring them back to shore to board a plane for return to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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